In 2018, Jorge Masvidal filmed a Spanish-language reality show in a jungle in the Dominican Republic, taking time off from his mixed martial arts career. Masvidal credited that austere experience of living in a Caribbean jungle far away from distractions, social media, and the fight world for much self-development and a re-centering that contributed to the three-fight KO winning streak that has followed.
Masvidal’s life since returning from the jungle and to fighting has been decidedly more circus-like than meditative thanks to the attention that his incredible ring success has brought. Still the fighter tells us that he’s made a concerted effort to take time for himself and his thoughts amid all the chaos.
One of the subjects that he’s reflected on and shared his thoughts with Yahoo Sports on in an exclusive two-part conversation that we’ll have more from on Monday is how even close relationships can change drastically over time.
It was just a year and a half ago that Masvidal cornered his longtime training partner, friend and former roommate Colby Covington in Chicago at UFC 225 when Covington faced Rafael Dos Anjos for an interim UFC belt. Since then, the two have grown apart and even traded vicious insults and taunts even though they’re still technically on the same American Top Team squad together.
Masvidal said the change in their relationship was “little by little, then all at once.”
“In my mind, we were cool,” said Masvidal, who was doing a media tour to promote cbdMD. “I was also very, very cool with [UFC light heavyweight champion] Jon Jones and very, very cool with [ex-welterweight champion] Tyron Woodley. I talk to them every once in awhile and both of them had foul experiences with this individual. So did another coach at [American Top Team]. So, I wasn’t completely blind. Still, I thought, ‘This guy hasn’t done nothing wrong to me so I’ll keep it cool.’ Sure enough, he [expletive] me over.”
Though word behind the scenes at that time was that Covington and Masvidal’s relationship had already begun to become strained in no small part due to Covington’s new loud, offensive and racist public persona. After the fight, Masvidal says things were damaged irreparably because of how Covington treated Paulino Hernandez, a mutual coach.
Masvidal said Hernandez had taken Covington from his start as an amateur up to the fight with dos Anjos.
“Paulino is a stand-up guy,” said Masvidal, who said his goal for his next bout is to fight ex-UFC champion Conor McGregor. “He helped him with everything, from his punches to setting up his shots and guess what he did to Paulino when he finally made some money? He burned him. He burned my coach, who is more like my father. At that moment this individual was dead to me.”
Masvidal isn’t the only ATT fighter to express his disgust with Covington for the way he not only publicly insulted Usman, but also his fellow teammates.
Dustin Poirier and Joanna Jedrzejczyk have also publicly voiced their condemnation of Covington’s behavior. All this has resulted in a tense situation at the Coconut Creek, Florida, mega-gym.
Now that Covington will be out at least for some time while his broken jaw heals, Masvidal says that the gym will be a healthier environment once more.
“The environment sucks for him [but] for us, it doesn’t change,” Masvidal said. “He’s a punk. He doesn’t like to train with us. As soon as people get there, he leaves the gym. He leaves early and makes it uncomfortable for himself. … He talks bad about literally everybody else. He’s talked about everyone from flyweights to heavyweights, men and women. What’s the point of that?”
Making matters more strange and divisive, Masvidal says that some of Covington’s most inflammatory lines, even those directed at other ATT fighters, have been ghost-written by someone who works at the gym.
Masvidal said Covington’s ghost writer is what he called “a pro wrestling has-been.”
“Why would you diss the place that has given you so much?” Masvidal said. “When Colby said about Dustin Poirier, who is a teammate, that ‘Oh, he couldn’t stuff a nosebleed so how could he stuff a shot from Khabib Nurmagomedov?’ that was a line written by that guy. How can you write that about people on your team, talking through Colby? To them that line was the greatest thing in sports. Others might say that no, the greatest moment in sports is you getting your jaw broken. There’s a price to pay. If you say those things eventually someone will find you and break you.”
Given Masvidal’s drawing power and his win streak he very well could demand that his next fight be against Usman. That isn’t his only option, however. Masvidal and his team will surely look to take whatever fight offers them the best pay and timing, next. Still, I ask him if, all things related to money and timing were equal, would Masvidal rather fight for a world title next or against “big” names like McGregor or Diaz. He pauses, then entertains the hypothetical scenario.
“If it’s all the same and everybody has got the same number on their head that I’m going to decapitate, I haven’t had a belt yet, they say,” he says.
Clearly, the idea of finally becoming world champion has a special appeal to the longtime elite prizefighter. “There are people who said I would never be able to challenge for a belt. For the people who say I’m an overnight success, [expletive] you. I’ve been doing this 16 years. That’s 16 years of work, no sleep at the gym and finally getting here. Do the math on how many nights are in 16 years. So, they’re out here saying there’s this one old dude from Africa who is the best guy at my weight. I beg to differ. I’m going to embarrass him. People will think I’ve gone full-heel with how badly I embarrass him. Our skillsets are nowhere near the same.”
With all that having been said, however, Masvidal does not expect every potential fight of his to be equally high-paying. So, for that reason, he’s marked Conor McGregor as his next target.
McGregor returns to action next month against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and from the sound of it Masvidal expects the embattled and courtroom tangled Irishman to be his next opponent afterward.
“We’re starting with the biggest check,” Masvidal ends. “The first guy to get his face kicked and punched in is Conor. He’s going to be the first one I wipe the floor with. After that we’ll sit back and see.”
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